Latest Scams On The Elderly: Be Wary!
The National Elder Fraud Hotline was created by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for people to report fraud against anyone age 60 or older. Now, scammers are using this free government resource to perpetrate fraud against seniors. Hotline staffers say they have received reports that scammers are impersonating staff in an attempt to get older adults’ personal information or money by using threats, including a claim that the supposed staffer is filing a lawsuit against the senior.
The DOJ says the hotline is staffed by professionals who know how to support seniors. So, staffers will not ask callers for their personally identifiable information, nor will they ask for money. Staffers warn seniors to be vigilant for fraudsters impersonating them.
Security experts and advocates for seniors say con artists repeatedly use the same strategies and have recently found ways to add new twists to old scams. The Grandparent Scam, for instance, is one of the oldest scams around. In this con, scammers call claiming to be a grandchild in trouble or a police officer claiming the grandchild has been in an accident or involved in a crime. In either case, the supposed grandchild needs money. The imposters direct their victims to send money by using cash, gift cards, or a wire transfer to help their grandchild. What’s new is some scammers are sending ride-sharing services, like Uber, to pick up the cash in an envelope.
While adults of all ages have fallen victim to scams, the DOJ says that older adults are less likely to report the crime because they are scared, embarrassed, or don’t know who to call. What’s more, con artists target older adults because scammers believe they are more financially secure than younger adults. Older adults 60 and over lost $3.1 billion to fraud in 2022; that’s the highest loss reported among victims of all ages, according to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report. It’s also a significant jump from the $1.68 billion in losses reported in 2021.
Besides the Grandparent Scam, other commonly reported scams include the following:
1. Government impersonation scams
Scammers impersonate government representatives from Social Security Administration, the IRS, Medicare, and other government agencies. Fraudsters make a variety of false claims, such as problems with a senior’s Social Security number or a senior who owes taxes. Scammers often tell older adults that they need to pay a fee or give them their personal information to resolve the problem. The impostors will use personal information to commit identity theft.
2. Sweepstakes and lottery scams
In this scheme, fraudsters call seniors to tell them that they have won a sweepstakes, similar to the well-known Publisher’s Clearing House, or they have won a lottery. However, to claim their winnings, seniors must send money, cash, or gift cards to cover supposed taxes and processing fees. Older adults may send them money, but they never receive a prize.
3. Robocalls and phone scams
Robocalls are carried out every day by making calls to households from anywhere in the world. A robocall is a phone call that uses auto-dialing software to deliver a pre-recorded voice message to a large number of people. After seniors answer the phone, they will hear a variety of claims, such as someone has been trying to access their bank account and the caller needs to confirm their identity or their warranty (which they do not have in the first place) has expired on a car or an electronic device and they need to pay to renew it.
4. Romance Scams
Con artists sign up on online dating platforms with fake profiles and photos to find potential victims. Once they gain a person’s affection and trust, the scammer usually asks for money. According to the FBI, con artists may go so far as even to propose marriage or make plans to meet in person, but that never happens.
5. Online Shopping Scams
Anyone can fall victim to an online scam, but older adults fall for these schemes more than people of other ages. Fraudsters pretend to be legitimate sellers and set up fake websites to trick customers into providing payment information. Seniors, however, do not receive the purchased items, which include fraudulent pharmaceutical drugs or health and beauty products.
Tips For Spotting A Scam
Once seniors arm themselves with information and remain vigilant, they will be able to spot a scam and avoid becoming a victim. The following are some of the most common warnings signs to look out for in a scam:
1. A strong sense of urgency.
Scammers create time-sensitive situations to place older adults under pressure so that they can send money to resolve a serious problem quickly. The best step to take is to stop and re-evaluate the situation when the pressure starts. Also, question the caller about the situation. If the scheme involves a family member, such as a grandchild, verify the scammer’s information with another family member.
2. Threats or scare tactics.
Scammers often use fear to get seniors to make hasty decisions that they later regret. For example, the fraudsters will threaten to have seniors arrested, deported, or cancel their Social Security number if they do not fulfill the scammers’ demands. Representatives from the legitimate government, law enforcement, and other agencies do not frighten older adults but aim to protect them.
3. Requests for personal information.
such as the IRS, Social Security, law enforcement authorities, and representatives from well-known organizations do not ask for money, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers. Do not give out any personal information or click on links that take you to sites that ask for your personal information.
4. Sob stories and excuses.
Scammers use a sob story or excuse to ask for money online. This is a common tactic used on dating sites as a way of getting the victim’s sympathy and trust. For instance, con artists may claim that they need money for car repairs or to pay their children’s school tuition or medical bills. Beware of strangers who ask for money.
5. Requests nontraditional payment methods.
Con artists insist on getting gift cards, wire transfers or payment apps because they are immediate. These nontraditional methods also do not have the protection against theft offered by credit or debit cards.
6. Don’t answer unknown calls.
Ignore calls from unknown numbers. However, if you answer the phone and a stranger calls from an unknown number asking for money or for personal information, hang up immediately.
If you have lost money in a scam, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Federal Trade Commission online or call 877–FTC–HELP (877–382–4357).
If you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at https://www.ic3.gov/.